Survivor 42’s 10th episode opened with a carved version of the show’s logo, propped up in shallow water, and then falling over and floating away. That’s a good metaphor for what (nearly) happened when Survivor brought back yet another one of the dumb twists from last season.
The second Jeff Probst started talking to the camera and told us “today is the dangerous do or die twist,” my heart sank, because up until then, we’d had a wonderful, character-driven, strategy-focused episode.
For example, Mike was “feeling high after Hai,” as Omar brilliantly put it. Mike was about to “become what he was accusing Hai of doing.”
And Mike was full of sass, saying “We lopped [Hai’s] head off, just like he deserved,” and adding that “his peasants banded together.” Mike gave himself credit for all this: “quite frankly, I orchestrated it right from the beginning.”
Mike banded together for a final five alliance with Omar, Lindsay, Drea, and Jonathan. “I give you my word,” he said, and then immediately turned around and started planning to stab one of them, Drea, in the back.
Meanwhile, Jonathan was both drained and annoyed, pouting over the fact that 1) he’s bigger but is fed the same amount as all the Lilliputians, and 2) everyone is not worshipping him as their provider god. Perhaps if they spent time tying him to the beach he’d feel more appreciated?
Jonathan actually said, in an interview, “The provider is supposed to get props.” Do Jonathan fans see how bad he is at the social game, or do we have another Xander situation that’s going to happen this season?
There were also interesting moments ranging from Romeo’s outsider status (“Screw them. I’m not doing anything for anybody but myself out here,” he said) to Maryanne’s tiny toenail’s regular exit from her foot.
Finally, Lindsay and Drea now have a steal-a-vote, because Hai’s part of the amulet is gone. Lindsay said, “The game’s getting spicy now!”
Yes it was. Cue Jeff Probst insisting that bland food is so much better, and pouring water all over what we just saw.
Please do die Do or Die
In an amazing coincidence—since this cast did not see season 41—both twists that appeared played out identically to last season.
Lindsay was faced with the Do or Die twist, also known as Jeff Probst really wishes he was hosting Let’s Make a Deal.
It presented her with the Monty Hall Problem, and as Hai whispered on the jury, “You always swap.”
She didn’t, just like Deshawn did not, either, during Survivor 41. Both beat the odds and found the flame, staying in the game.
Meanwhile, Drea’s attempt to steal Mike’s idol with one of her 122 advantages failed, because she’d told Omar what she was going to do.
This possibility played out at camp. Presented with the idea that they could use Drea’s Knowledge is Power to get Mike out, Omar realized he could use that to basically steal Mike’s idol. We didn’t see this actually happen until a Tribal Council flashback, when Mike gave his idol to Omar. (Omar is going to win this game, isn’t he?)
That meant Drea could not steal Mike’s idol, just as Liana couldn’t steal Xander’s idol.
I will admit that both of these advantages made for great individual moments. That does not justify either twist’s existence, though.
The problem, as Omar articulated, is that all of the machinations set in play before and after the immunity challenge could simply be erased.
“And yet, none of this may matter,” Omar said, pointing out we’d be “back to square one” next week.
I’d honestly like to know how Survivor’s producers justify twists that completely nullify actual game play. I understand Probst’s boner for forcing the cast to make choices (even though that happens without his intervention, but I digress).
But why allow those choices to obliterate organic choices? Clearly, they sometimes create a good moment of television, and that’s all that matters, I guess?
By the way, I’d guess the producers and editors chose to Omar’s critique of their decision in the episode because they knew that the outcome was.
One of the other things that bugs me about the Do or Die twist—wait, should I explain that I don’t like it?!—is that it’s presented as a choice but isn’t actually explained.
Probst introduced it as a “potentially deadly game of chance,” in which “nothing can protect you. It is you against the game.”
But critically, he did not actually explain what that meant: a two-thirds chance you’ll join the jury for just picking the wrong box.
Given the chance to play Jeff Probst’s Reindeer Games or not, five out of the seven players opted out. That left Lindsay and Jonathan to balance on a thing, and Jonathan won immunity yet again.
At camp, Drea was hopeful Lindsay would pick the wrong box, thereby turning her amulet into a hidden immunity idol, giving her yet another tool.
But Drea also said there was a “very weird vibe,” and so at Tribal Council, she played all of the advantages she could: Her Knowledge is Power and her extra vote.
It was not enough, and Drea was voted out.
If you, like me, thought Hai’s exit last week set a new bar for exuberant exists, with his actual excitement at his own blindside, that bar was quickly raised.
Drea now takes the trophy for the most spectacularly enthusiastic exit imaginable. She gave hugs, she ran back and forth from her torch to the tribe, and she rattled off names and spilled her knowledge with a smile.
Among the things Drea said was that Mike would win (“kiss of death,” he said) and that she’d told only Omar about her Knowledge is Power advantage.
All of this was capped off by Drea herself declaring that the tribe had spoken.
“Never seen a moment like this,” Probst said. Yes, indeed. And we almost didn’t get it. That’s why you trust your players and your format. You don’t need games of chance to create drama. You just need great people.